Sanjiv Bhatt- Former IPS Officer Who Was At The Center OF Several Controversies Sentenced To Life
Debarghya Sil India
June 25th, 2019 / 6:02 PM
On June 20, the Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was sentenced to life imprisonment by Jamnagar Sessions Court in Gujarat. He was found guilty in a three-decade-old custodial death case of Prabhudas Vaishani.
The 1988 batch officer of Gujarat cadre, Sanjiv Bhatt who was posted as the new Additional Superintendent of Police in Jamnagar district along with other officers in 1990 arrested 133 BJP workers from Jamjodhpur town for protesting against the arrest of the BJP senior leader – LK Advani after his infamous Rath Yatra was stopped due to communal violence on October 30. One of those arrested was Prabhudas Vaishnani.
Vaishnani along with others were sent to Jamnagar jail the following day after being remanded in judicial custody and was released on bail on November 8, 2019. However, ten days after being out, Vaishnani died in hospital due to renal failure and cardio- respiratory arrest. Vaishnani’s brother – Amrutlal, following the death registered an FIR against Bhatt and other officers for custodial torture. A postmortem was conducted which confirmed that Vaishnani had died due to renal failure. The application of autopsy was used as a complaint against Bhatt and other officers. Cops booked Bhatt and other policemen under IPC sections 302 (murder), 323(custodial torture), and 506(1) (criminal intimidation). During the treatment of Vaishnani, his brother never mentioned about custodial tourure, to which the prosecutor said that the victim’s brother was in fear that he might not receive medical treatment given the circumstances. The Magistrate heard the case in 1995. The trial remained still as a result of stay by the Gujarat High Court, the stay was later lifted in 2011 and trial commenced.
Following the arrest, his wife – Shweta Bhatt said that he is facing punishment for a “crime he did not commit”. She said that she will continue to fight against this injustice. She also slammed the IPS association for not standing by him. In a press release she said, “To the IPS association – today one of your very own has been vindictively persecuted for being a true IPS officer. You didn’t stand by him, you didn’t protect him … he keeps fighting his battle against this vindictive government, the question is till what end are you prepared to remain as silent spectators?”
Opium Case – 1996
Sanjiv Bhatt has been at the centre of several controversies since his early days in police service. The ex-cop was arrested on September 5, 2018 and is in jail in connection with the arrest of a lawyer for allegedly possessing opium drugs, 23 years ago. In 1996, Bhatt who was posted as the Superintendent Police in the North Gujarat district arrested an advocate named Sumer Singh Rajpuroshit from Pali district in Rajasthan on charges of possessing around one kg of opium in a hotel in Palanpur.
Five months after the arrest, Rajpurohit filed a complaint against the then sitting Gujarat High Court judge, Justice Jain, Sanjiv Bhatt and his subordinate police officers. Purohit had then alleged that he was being framed in a false Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic (NDPS) case. According to the lawyer, the cops had abducted him and placed narcotics in his room with a motive to vacate his property, which allegedly belonged to a relative of the High Court judge.
The Crime Investigation Department (CID) which was overseeing the case, found that the IPS officer had paid Rs 20,000 to a policeman to buy opium from a Sherpura in Deesa tehsil of Banaskantha district, reported The Indian Express. The CID in its charge sheet mentioned that on April 29, 1996, Rabari a cop, got the opium in a violet packet and was kept in the cupboard of Local Crime Branch Police Inspector Indravadan Vyas. According to the charge sheet, the same package of was opium was placed in room no – 305 of Lajwanti city hotel in Palanpur, where Rapurohit was staying.
The CID also found that Bhatt had previously asked Palanpur city Inspector Gohli and Sub-Inspector (LCB) Parthibhai Chowdhary to slap Rajpurohit with fake narcotics case, but they refused to do so. The investigation revealed that the police “detected” the drug from the hotel room before Rajpurohit checked in. Rajpurohit’s signature was forged. The investigation found several lapses in the arrest of Rajpurohit and also discovered that no permission was taken from the government to arrest Rajpurohit from another state.
Bhatt vs BJP
Sanjiv Bhatt during his police tenure had several run-ins with the BJP government. Bhatt in 2011 had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, accusing the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for directing the top police officers during the 2002 riots to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger” and “teach a lesson” to Muslims after the Godhra burning train incidents which killed Hindu passengers. Bhatt claimed that he attended a meeting on February 27, 2002, where Modi had asked the cops not to take any action.
The apex court based on Bhatt’s allegation appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the case. Bhatt had claimed that he had sent fax messages to all the significant officials on the night of the meeting. He mentioned that he had provided all the required information about the meeting to SIT during their interaction in 2009. However, SIT alleged that the fax messages sent by Bhatt never existed.
SIT also said that they failed to find a police officer who could testify on Bhatt’s presence in the meeting. The affidavit was signed Constable KD Panth, who later filed an FIR against Bhatt alleging that Bhatt had forced him to sign the affidavit. Panth claimed that Bhatt had taken him to the residence of Arjun Modhwadi, the then state president of the Congress, where he was asked to obey Bhatt’s order. During the SIT investigation, Panth claimed that he was on leave during the Gujarat riots.
In 2015, the Apex court based on SIT’s probe rubbished Bhatt’s allegation and called it “false and baseless”.The court gave clean-chit to Narendra Modi and criticised Bhatt for exchanging emails with rival political party leaders.
Bhatt’s wife has also been vociferous against the BJP government. In 2012, she filed nomination for the Congress party from Maninagar, against Modi. She lost the election.
Sacked For Unauthorised Absence
Bhatt was suspended from the service in 2011 and sacked on August 19, 2015, on the ground of “unauthorised absence” from service. He was terminated from the service on 11 charges which included “defying orders of superior officer (DG &IGP), taking custody of log book from lawfully authorised government servants, retaining custody of government assets unauthorisedly, misbehaving with government servants, retaining official vehicles belonging to other officers unauthorisedly, and others.
In 2003, Bhatt’s abrupt transfer as jail superintendent from Sabaramati jail stoke a huge controversy. His transfer led to 4,000 inmates to go for hunger strike and six convicts slashed their wrists- an incident that never happened before. The inmates chanted “Bhatt ko wapas laao”. Bhatt in his 2 and a half months tenure in Sabarmati jail, became favourites among inmates. He introduced gajar ka halwa on the jail menu and spoke to the prisoners. It was due to his friendly nature with inmates that led to his transfer. However, Bhatt claims that the main reason behind his transfer was that he had evidence which proved that Haren Pandya’s real killer was Tulsiram Prajapati, a close aide of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and not Asgar Ali. Asgar had informed this to Bhatt in Sabarmati jail had told this to Bhatt. Haren Pandya had earlier testified undercover to a body headed by Justice Krishna Iyer that Modi wanted Hindus to “vent their anger” after the Godhra incident. He was killed in 2003.
Due to several pending cases against Bhatt, his promotion was stalled. He stayed as SP for over a decade when his batchmates were promoted to Inspector-general of police rank.
Written by : Debarghya Sil
Edited by : Shweta Kothari